MassDOT to host hearing on interchange project

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With the first phase of the long-awaited Canton Interchange Project slated to begin as soon as next spring, the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has scheduled a public hearing for next Wednesday, August 27, at Canton Town Hall to address any questions and concerns that residents might have about the project.

The hearing will commence at 6:30 p.m. in the Salah Meeting Room, and “all views and comments made at the hearing will be reviewed and considered to the maximum extent possible,” according to MassDOT.

The focus of the hearing will be on the Dedham Street/Canton Street portion of the project — a series of infrastructure improvements designed to mitigate the impact of the University Station development that is being built on the Westwood/Canton border.

The list of proposed improvements, many of which were added to the interchange project at the urging of Canton officials, includes the construction of a Dedham Street off-ramp from I-95 northbound; widening of Dedham/Canton Street from two to four lanes between Kirby Drive and a point just west of the Neponset River, with a sidewalk constructed on the westbound side; widening of the bridges over Amtrak and the Neponset River; and replacement of the bridge over I-95.

The project also calls for the installation of traffic signals at the following locations on Dedham Street: the former Cumberland Farms/Canton Corporate Park driveway; the existing I-95 southbound on-ramp; the new I-95 northbound off-ramp; and the intersection with Shawmut Road. The intersection of Canton Street and University Avenue in Westwood would also be reconstructed and the signals upgraded. These five intersections, according to MassDOT, would “operate as a coordinated signal system and provide safe pedestrian crossing locations for the major potential sources of pedestrian trips.”

The project will cost an estimated $35 million and will require land acquisitions and temporary or permanent easements, which are expected to be discussed at next week’s hearing.

Currently, 75 percent of the project plans have been completed, with construction tentatively set to begin in the spring of 2015.

Meanwhile, a second and much larger phase of the interchange project — focusing on the I-93/I-95 interchange itself — has been earmarked for the following fiscal year with construction expected to commence in the fall of 2016.

The bulk of the $191 million second phase would focus on the stretch of highway between I-93 south near Route 138 and the University Ave. entrance ramp on I-95 north. The project would include the replacement of the I-95 northbound clover leaf ramp with a high-speed, two-lane, direct-connect ramp; a realigned and improved high-speed, two-lane direct connection between I-93 south and I-95 south; a new entrance ramp from University Avenue to I-93 north, including the discontinued use of Green Lodge Street west of Elm Street; and a new exit ramp from I-93 south to University Avenue.

The project has also expanded to include the addition of travel lanes on I-95 — a two-mile section of I-95 south from the interchange to Neponset Street will be widened to four lanes and a one-mile section of I-95 north from Dedham Street to I-93 will also be widened to four lanes.

Although originally targeted for completion between 2021 and 2025, both phases of the interchange project have since been added to the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s transportation improvement program and are expected to be completed within the next five years, according to the latest state estimates.

Together, the two projects are expected to go a long way toward solving a decades-old traffic problem while also mitigating any impacts from University Station, which is currently under construction and slated to open sometime next year.

The large mixed-use development, originally dubbed Westwood Station, has been downsized considerably from when it was first proposed in 2007; however, the revamped first phase will still include roughly 500,000 square feet of retail space, including a Target and a Wegman’s store, along with 350 luxury apartments. Subsequent phases will add up to 300 more residential units, additional retail and office space, up to 160 hotel rooms, and an assisted living facility.

Last August, in exchange for Canton’s support of the project, the developers signed a sweeping agreement that included a promise to limit a portion of the development until the Dedham Street corridor improvements were substantially completed by the state. In addition, the developer agreed to fund roadway improvements at eight Canton intersections while also providing the town with an additional $1.35 million in discretionary funds to address future project impacts.

As for the aforementioned Dedham Street improvements, those who would like to comment can do so at next week’s hearing or by submitting a statement in writing to Patricia A. Leavenworth, P.E., Chief Engineer, MassDOT, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116, Attention: Environmental Section, Project File No. 606146.

Written views received by MassDOT at least five days prior to the hearing will be displayed for public inspection and copying on Wednesday, August 27. Plans will be on display 30 minutes before the hearing begins, and an engineer will be in attendance to answer questions about the project.

Project inquiries can also be submitted via email to dot.feedback.highway@state.ma.us.

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